Group wants police to wear cameras, mikes

Sunflower Community Action wants Wichita police officers to wear cameras and microphones that would record almost all of their interaction with the public.

But the city says it has to evaluate its priorities, which include digitizing its radio system by 2012 and developing an electronic ticketing system to cut costs in municipal court.

That was the crux of a meeting Sunflower had with City Manager Robert Layton and Police Chief Norman Williams on Wednesday afternoon.

Sunflower, which advocates for justice and equality, brought several people to tell Layton and Williams about their complaints on police behavior and how cameras could help.

The group suggested using money generated from drug busts. Such funds are regulated by federal law.

Layton said it was the first time he had heard a request for cameras mounted on police officers' uniforms. He said he couldn't commit to buying the cameras but would have police evaluate the possibility as part of a larger report on camera use.

"I never said one priority is higher than the other," Layton said.

Sunflower left disappointed nonetheless.

"I think their priorities are not the same as the community's priorities," said Carlene Eye, a Sunflower member.

Eye and other Sunflower members say cameras would give people accountability and police evidence.

They say that could cut down on court costs and remove the ''he said, she said'' nature of police conduct complaints.

"The officers would probably be a little bit more careful about following the proper rules and procedures," Eye said.

Police resisted the dash cameras for a few years while Sunflower pressed its case, saying they had higher priorities. But the city started a pilot program in 2008 that put cameras in eight squad cars.

A report on that program is expected in late October.

But Layton has already said storing and indexing the video files could be more efficient.